The Gambling Health Alliance (GHA), led by the RSPH, is today, 20th November 2020, launching #LidOnLootsa campaign calling for paid-for loot boxes to be classed as a form of gambling and banned from video games played by under 18s. The campaign launches as the Government consults on what to do to tackle the potential harms from loot boxes – particularly to young people’s mental health, wellbeing and finances.

New research with young gamers revealed that the vast majority (91%) view buying a loot box as a form of gambling. Current legislation does not class loot boxes as gambling because the items won cannot be ‘cashed out’. However our survey found that one in ten gamers ‘always’ or ‘often’ sell the item won in a loot box for money, making this activity gambling according to legislation, as the prize results in money.

Young people also rated which of the most popular video games were more negatively impacted by loot boxes, and the top three included:

  • FIFA, selected by four in five (79%);
  • Farm Heroes, chosen by two thirds (68%);
  • Pro Evolution Soccer (67%).

The survey also found that:

  • One third (34%) said that games rarely make it clear from the start they feature loot boxes that have to be paid for;
  • Two in five (41%) think spending money on a loot box when under 18 would make them more likely to gamble when older;
  • Three quarters (75%) feel that buying a loot box is bad for their health, citing feelings of addiction, regret and anger when purchasing loot boxes;
  • Almost half (48%) try to hide how much time or money they spend on games;
  • Three quarters (76%) thought that loot boxes should be illegal for under 18s to buy.

This Safer Gambling Week (19-25 November), the GHA is asking supporters of the #LidOnLoots campaign to call out the worst offending games that feature loot boxes, and to boycott buying them in the run-up to Christmas using #LidOnLoots to show support on social media. For more information on the campaign, including ways to support, please visit our #LidOnLoots homepage.

Duncan Stephenson, Chair of the GHA and Deputy Chief Executive of RSPH, said: “We are launching our #LidOnLoots campaign at such a critical time with gambling related harms at record levels and with the Government committed to taking action. Our latest research suggests that video games have slowly and steadily been polluted with gambling features, and the law has simply not kept pace. Many young people today face a gamble every time they log on to play their favourite game and we are concerned that this could very well normalise gambling for a generation of young people, with concerns that this may make them more likely to have problems with gambling as they get older.    

“Video gaming is a fun activity for many, particularly during lockdown – but the view from gamers is very clear – the overwhelming majority regard the presence of loot boxes as a form of gambling.  In the UK alone the loot box market is worth £700 million; it’s high time we opened our eyes to this, and give young people the protection they deserve and – as our polling shows – are asking for. We are calling on our supporters to help us put the #LidOnLoots and make gaming fairer and a more positive influence on our health and wealth.”  

Carolyn Harris MP, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Gambling Related Harm, and APPG Vice Chair Ronnie Cowan MP, jointly said:

“The increased prevalence of loot boxes within games aimed at younger audiences is a huge concern. It’s shocking that games which contain loot boxes and therefore an element of gambling at a financial cost are not required to disclose this on either packaging or websites. Loot boxes normalise gambling, yet remain largely unregulated, and easily accessible to children, increasing their likelihood to gamble later in life with a reduced awareness of the potential dangers. This needs to be addressed urgently in order to prevent widespread harm amongst a generation of young people.

“As Chair and Vice Chair of the Gambling Related Harm All Party Parliamentary Group, we welcome the Gambling Health Alliance’s ‘#LidOnLoots’ campaign and their call for Loot Boxes to be limited to games aimed at over 18s only. We look forward to continuing to work closely together to ensure we protect children from the dangers of gambling. The gaming industry should not be a vehicle to groom young adults for the gambling industry to exploit later in life.”

Dr Stephen Kaar and Dr Atheeshaan Arumuham from Gaming the Mind, a UK-based registered charity working at the intersection of gaming and mental health, added:

“This important research highlights that there are young gamers with significant concerns about harms related to loot boxes, and they do not feel appropriately safeguarded. Their experiences should be taken seriously. This demands further study into the effects of loot boxes, particularly among vulnerable populations. Loot box mechanics in games should now be regulated in the same manner as gambling, to safeguard young people and vulnerable adults.”   

Helen Wills, host of Teenage Kicks, a podcast about teens' mental health, commented:

"I see online gaming as a brilliant way for my kids to keep in touch with their friends, especially during lockdown. I knew about FIFA 'packs' but I hadn't realised the potential for these loot boxes to become addictive. I've discussed gambling with my son now, and I think it's important that all parents have this conversation with their kids."